Five Ways to Expand the Current Star Wars Universe

Five Ways to Expand the Current Star Wars Universe

Hi folks, Nathan here, filling in for Kiri while she gets into the groove of this whole motherhood thing. All the best to Kiri and her little Jedi as they start this journey. May the Force be with you for sure!

Okay, so let’s talk about the old Expanded Universe. It was just over two years ago that this collection of novels, comics, and game narratives loved (and occasionally loathed) by Star Wars fans was relegated to the status of “Legends”. In that time, a great deal of digital ink has been spilled decrying Disney’s decision as well as talking about all the critical pieces of the EU that should have been kept canon.

And none of it has mattered. At the end of the day, I understand why Disney made this call. The EU became a convoluted collection of Galaxy ending disasters occurring every other week and an indistinguishable knot of interpersonal relationships. Some of it had to be jettisoned in order to create stories that were still fresh and compelling and accessible to new audiences.

However, the EU was still home to a bunch of great ideas. No small indication of that is how The Force Awakens borrowed some of them, at least conceptually, to fill out its characters and places. One example is Starkiller Base which certainly recalls The Sun Crusher. And of course there’s the reveal that Kylo Ren is in fact Jacen Solo, er, I mean Ben…

In the wake of The Force Awakens, I want to look at aspects of the EU that are ideas that can still be used to fill out that Galaxy far, far away. The idea here isn’t that Disney should lift these five things whole cloth from the pages of our favorite Star Wars novels. Rather, I believe these five concepts should be used to help flesh out the new canon, even if not in the exact form we’re familiar with.

Lando’s Bad Luck

You remember the bustling mineral business from Nomad City on Nkllon? Or the Galaxy famous theme parks of Cloud City? Or the time Lando fought a rancor for priceless Meek artifacts?

No? That’s because in the EU Lando had a long history of betting big, and failing bigger. It was part of the old space pirate’s enduring charm. He was always out for the big score, even if that was going to land him in more trouble than it was worth.

It does appear that so far in canon stories of Lando will fall along the same vein. His appearance on the Rebels show involved many shenanigans leading to the revelation that he’s going to be using puffer pigs to root out valuable minerals. Also the Lando comic series (I’ll be talking more about this soon!) starts with Lando acquiring a certain trinket to pay off a debt, only to have the term familiarly “altered” at the last minute. Let’s keep Lando out in front of some of the Galaxy’s most magnificent schemes, and maintaining his winning smile when the dust settles from the eventual crash.

Black Sun and Prince Xizor

In the late 90’s, Lucasfilm was looking thinking about releasing new Star Wars films into the world. There were ideas floating around, but the Prequels were still a few years off. The media company had formed many relationships in the nearly two decades since the Original Trilogy, but questions were being asked how these various media entities could work around a single big release. Could they work in conjunction to release materials in multiple formats that would compliment each other and continue to build on the Star Wars fan base? The answer to those questions was the Shadows of the Empire multimedia project.

It started as an experiment to see if Lucasfilm and its partners were ready for a major motion picture release. For the first time, we as fans received new stories that explored the period between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. We were introduced to new heroes and new villains. Among those were the Black Sun crime syndicate and its indomitable leader, Prince Xizor.

Black Sun exists within the current canon. They were a faction with Darth Maul’s Shadow Collective, but I feel like they lack some of the teeth they had when introduced through Shadows of the Empire. Perhaps that has to do with the enigmatic, over the top Prince Xizor. Xizor was written to be the ultimate badass. And while I don’t think the canon needs a character exactly like him (pure evil complete with rapey seduction pheromones), a powerful crime lord that rivals the Hutts and is confident enough to scheme around the Emperor would be a very cool addition.

The Courtship of Princess Leia

The Courtship of Princess Leia was the first EU novel I read as teenager. The story of a lovesick Han Solo essentially kidnapping Leia, to woo her on a planet he won in an underground sabacc game. A planet that just happens to be home to rancors and a lost race of “magical” force users that leads to squaring off against the strongest of the Imperial Remnant, Warlord Zsinj. All the while Han is pursued by Luke and the jilted Prince Isolder attempting to prevent civil war within the fledgling New Republic.

It was truly a soap opera in space writ large, and I devoured it as a young Star Wars fan. Courtship was a fun, fast read. It had its flaws and these days doesn’t rank quite as high among my favorite EU novels, but it was really my first big introduction to the EU and for that it will always be adored.

What I would love to keep from The Courtship of Princess Leia is that it is going to take a big, raucous adventure, and maybe risking everything our heroes have fought to build, for Han to admit his feelings and decide to ask Leia to marry him. Because one thing about Han Solo, and this has been established in the canon, its going to take an awful lot for him to consider family life. You know.

Grand Admiral Thrawn and the Chiss.

You knew he would make the list. Grand Admiral Thrawn is one of the most enduring elements of the EU. Timothy Zahn’s seminal trilogy elevated the Expanded Universe. No small part of that was due to the strength of Thrawn as such a fascinating character. He was a brilliant strategist and a blue skinned alien that had risen to Grand Admiral in the notoriously xenophobic Empire. Next to perhaps the reborn Emperor, Thrawn was the Empire’s best chance at reestablishing its former glory.

With the First Order’s clear similarities to the Empire, it seems obvious that the Imperial Remnant didn’t fade away after the events Return of the Jedi. Having a strong, brilliant presence similar to Grand Admiral Thrawn would go a long way to explaining the Empire’s continued influence 30 years later.

If that character were to have ties to a mysterious faction in the Outer Rim that has its eyes set upon extending its dominance into the Core Worlds, that would add even more intrigue. The Chiss Ascendancy would be a fascinating foil to both the plans of the Alliance and Empire.

Add to that the fact that Luke, Leia, and Han appear to have a less influential roles in the Galaxy after Ben Solo’s betrayal, and threats from the Imperial Remnants and the Chiss would require a new set of heroes to face them. Some of those heroes could be members of…

Rogue Squadron

Talk to me about Star Wars fandom, and it won’t take long for me to reveal my love for Rogue Squadron. I’ve said before that Wedge Antilles is possibly my favorite character. He certainly is outside of the Original Trilogy’s main heroes. In my late teens and early twenties, I just could not get enough of these scrappy men and women who accomplished the impossible without any Force to aid them (mostly). They relied solely on their Incom T-65 X-wings, their exceptional skill on the stick, and each other. Corran Horn said it best, “I’m with Rogue Squadron. Impossible is our stock in trade, and success is what we deliver.”

Rogue Squadron does exist in the current canon. Technically. It was the designation used by Luke and Wedge’s snowspeeder group on Hoth. I’m going to be watching the development of Rogue One very closely. I hope the use of the moniker there can somehow develop into a collection of the Rebellion’s best fighter pilots. I also like what I’ve seen of Black Squadron in the Poe Dameron comic series, but it’s not quite the same to me. I’m really hoping for a Star Wars universe that includes the Rogues.

What about you? What from the Expanded Universe would you like to see make the jump to Disney’s current canon at least conceptually?

Book Review: Choices of One

I like that I started 2015 off with a Star Wars novel.  I find that somehow fitting, seeing as this year is going to be a huge Star Wars year, what with the amping up of The Force Awakens.

Mei-Mei suggested Choices of One (by Timothy Zahn) to me almost 1 years ago in a random post, and Null definitely mentioned it as well…so thanks to you both – it somehow ended up on my reading list!  What makes it choices of oneso spectacular that it’s my first book of 2015 is that I have a reading list that ranges anywhere from 30-40 books on it at a time and I use random.org to pick the book I read next.  I had 34 books on my list, therefore giving me a 3% chance of actually getting this novel.  Anyway, I found that interesting because I’m looking for reasons that 2015 is going to be awesome and Star Wars filled.

I liked this novel SO much better than my last Legends book (still trying not to write EU), Dawn of the Jedi.  Which is funny, because if I think about what I’m looking for in a Star Wars novel it’s generally something that happens either way before the movies or way after the movies and therefore has no connection to the main characters.  Instead, Choices of One takes place between ANH and ESB and involves the three main heroes as well.

The first third of the book was boring for me.  I struggled with getting into it and found the character interactions between Han, Leia, and Luke to be halting and didn’t flow naturally.  On the flip side, I enjoyed the scenes with the commanders on the Star Destroyer and the scenes with Mara Jade…they kept me reading when I wanted to give up.  I forgot how much I missed reading about Mara.  Though loyal to the Empire and the Emperor at this point, there are still glimpses of the woman we will see her become through her relationship with Luke.

As the novel went on, I thought our three heroes began to find their groove and Zahn did a better job of reflecting what we saw from their characters in the movie onto his paper.  Particularly, I thought he did an amazing job with Luke.  At this point, Luke is not as serious or knowledgeable of the Force as he is by the end of the OT.  He brought to life a struggle Luke had with everyone thinking he is a competent Jedi just because he has a lightsaber and blew up the Death Star, contrasted with how he feels that he knows absolutely nothing except the small training from Ben Kenobi.  I loved reading it and found it weirdly relatable as it can happen to many of us, especially if we start a new job.

When the novel started to all come together toward the end and we find out that Mara, the Hand of Judgment (a group of stormtrooper deserters), and the Rebels are all going to be at the same planet at the same time, I got a little nervous.  I was afraid of Luke and Mara having an interaction pre-Heir to the Empire and I wasn’t sure how I’d handle that.  Thankfully, Zahn threw them in a situation together where they actually do not have a conversation and only briefly glimpse each other.  It’s hard to say too much without spoiling the novel for anyone that wants to read it, but suffice it to say that my fears were unwarranted.

Pros:

  • Overall, Zahn did a good job with keeping the three heroes true to form with personality quirks and attitudes.
  • I liked that there were a lot of larger issues and questions that were brought to life and made you think. For instance, Han’s moral struggles at the end of the novel when he is incognito as an Imperial Officer.  He faced a decisions where he did not have to help the Imperials in their emergency situation and they would all die, which is a benefit to the Rebel cause, or he could help them because in a sense they were a ship full of innocent people facing a common enemy.
  • Null would be happy about this: I actually really, really enjoyed all chapters that had to do with the back cover choices of oneHand of Judgment, a band of deserter stormtroopers who are this murky shade of grey. Are they good or bad?  I loved reading personalities!  In stormtroopers!  Mind blown.  But seriously, that was something I didn’t expect to like so much and I’m actually considering adding Allegiance to my book list because of how much I enjoyed them.
  • It was great revisiting Thrawn and Mara Jade again (though separately). I was afraid of overkill on Thrawn, but he was written in there just enough that there was no overload.
  • My favorite chapters/sections to read was actually Commander Pellaeon’s storyline on the Star Destroyer Chimaera. I loved how he wanted to take everything one step further on his job and showed that there was competency within the Empire.
  • I liked the setup it played between ANH and ESB. For instance, the relationship and conversations Han has with General Rieekan explains more of ESB.  Little moments like that were a nice touch.

Cons:

  • The first third of the book dragged. I couldn’t get into it and was frustrated whenever I had to read chapters with the three heroes.  I felt like it took a while for Zahn to get into the groove of depicting them well, but it could also have been my resistance to actually reading them.
  • It was easily guessable. Don’t go into this novel actually hoping for a surprise at the end.  This is mara jade choices of oneno Game of Thrones and I had figured everything out by the halfway point.  Still, there’s something to be said that I kept reading even if I pretty much knew what was going to happen.
  • Is it just me or was Mara a little less harsh in this book? This could very well just be me since I haven’t read the original Thrawn Trilogy in 10+ years, but I have a distinct memory of her being a little less reasonable.
  • The Luke/Mara scene where they almost-meet-but-not-quite seems a liiiiiitle far-fetched. I was obviously happy they didn’t meet but it still seemed slightly unbelievable.  I also thought it out of character for Mara to just brush aside the name “Skywalker” that she references Vader was obsessively hunting.  I feel like Mara would have done a more thorough investigation on who he is if the name linked to someone Vader was searching for.

Overall, I was much happier with this novel than with Dawn of the Jedi.  It showed that I can read Legends books with the main characters and not give up entirely.  I would rate this 3.5/5 stars.  I liked it more than average, but I couldn’t love it enough to give it 4 stars.

Great Expectations

I realized something a week or two ago that kind of made me stop in my tracks.  As Episode VII approaches and with more news coming out every week, people are getting increasingly excited.  We have the camps that think the movie should stick strongly to the Thrawn trilogy (doubt that will happen), fans that believe it should be a whole fresh take on Star Wars (this is where I stand), and others who think we should pull in the old heroes to create a common thread in order to hand off the baton to a new generation of characters and create a new Star Wars storyline (I see some of the appeal in that).

What’s interesting about this is that the news of Disney and Episode VII came out on October 30th, almost a month ago, and already we are forming little factions organized around what we want to see in the new trilogy.  As 2015 continues to grow closer, there will be more and more opinions and expectations on how the movie and trilogy should be.

This is exactly the problem.  It’s hard to get excited about a movie as big as this one in our world without forming some sort of expectation on how it should be and I believe that was one of the major problems with the prequels.  People were SO excited and SO happy to be getting more Star Wars movies that the expectations kept getting raised higher and higher.  People were looking for that same feeling they had during the Original Trilogy; they wanted the Star Wars they knew, and it was hard for them to accept Star Wars as it had become.  George Lucas had changed as a director, whether you want to say that he turned into a sell-out or if you want to say he lost touch, whatever you want to say – he had a different vision of how the new prequels should be.

Things will not stay the same, nor should we expect the past to repeat itself.  I know this is easier said than done, but the last thing we should do is create a mental picture in our head of how we will be leaving the movie theater in 2015.  I’m sure so many people went into TPM imagining leaving the theater with a scenario like this:

“Wow, what about that movie, huh?  Wasn’t it amazing?”

“Yeah, dude, I’m so glad Star Wars is back in my life.”

Both their pairs of eyes are glazed over with happiness and warm, fuzzy feelings emit from their soul, creating a glow around them that can be seen for miles.

And then it didn’t happen and instead of accepting that a movie is, after all, just a movie, they decide to hate the prequels, blame George Lucas for ever thinking a Goofy-like character named Jar Jar was a good idea, and lament about how Star Wars has gone downhill for the next 13 years…until they hear the news on October 30th, 2012.  Then they stand up tall and think “Now, here is the chance for Star Wars to be redeemed once more!”  And the cycle repeats itself.

Because no matter what, no matter how awesome this movie is, it will not match all of our expectations.  We didn’t expect the Original Trilogy and that’s why no Star Wars trilogy will ever come close.  When you don’t have pre-conceived notions of how a movie should be, you have the ability to have a transformative experience.

It’s hard…how do you go into this new trilogy where so much of the universe has become your best friend, and try to stay realistic about it?  I’m not saying I don’t want to get excited.  Quite the opposite, I’m super excited!  But I don’t want to have overwhelming feelings of disappointment, so I’m going to try to have realistic expectations.

My Thoughts on Disney Acquiring Lucasfilm

Ok, so I’ve had a night to think about this, and it’s still huge news.  I can’t deny it.  I also want to encourage my readers to comment and let me know what you think!  I can see my stats and I know a lot of people read my blog, but only a few of you comment and let me know what you think…and this is a BIG  topic in our world and I want to know what’s going on in other people’s brains.

I have so many thoughts on this topic, but I’m going to keep it as few as possible because otherwise, you all would be reading a 10 page essay.

Notice the computer desktop in the background!

When I first heard the news and posted, I was a little sad.  This is George Lucas giving away his baby and George Lucas, is, well, the Jedi Master!  Is this a giant mistake?  How could he?  Then, upon thinking about it some more, I began to realize that maybe this is the breath of fresh air the Star Wars universe needs.  If Disney plays their cards right, this could be a very good thing.   As I followed twitter, articles, and blogs, I rounded up what my thoughts are.  I listened to the live ForceCast last night and actually took notes as the questions I had poured through my brain.  I never take notes!  I mean, most of the time, anything I want to blog about can be kept in my head – but there was just too much going on yesterday.

In a nutshell, Disney told us that we are going to have so much more Star Wars stuff.  Merchandising galore.  George has kept such a tight rein on the merchandising and if you’ve noticed over the years, there’s been a lot of potential for so much MORE.  I think Disney will take full advantage of that.  Keep in mind – this could lead to a STAR WARS THEME PARK.  Man, oh, man, that would be amazing.  Universal Studios did an excellent job with the Harry Potter Theme Park.  Can you imagine what Disney could do with a park devoted to Star Wars?  There have been complaints that Disney already has too much Star Wars events/rides going on in their park…so let’s take that out and give Star Wars it’s own park.  Sounds AWESOME, in my opinion.

Disney envisions a Star Wars presence on its channel.  How do I feel about that?  Ick.  The Disney Channel…with Star Wars on it?  But then again, we all know I was firmly against the Clone Wars for about 2 years and then warmed up to it.  My thoughts were, what does this mean for Seth Green’s Star Wars Detours?  They haven’t found a channel yet, will they move to Disney?  I don’t know if I can see Detours on Disney.  Not much has been said about the live action series too, but Disney has the money to pull it off, right?  But then again, it also brings back us back to the point that the live action series will probably be on the Disney Channel and I’m having a really hard time envisioning this.  Maybe I’m just balking at the change, maybe it will work out…I’m not sure.  However, Disney also owns ABC so shifting the shows to ABC  is more favorable in my eyes.  And what about the Clone Wars?  Will it eventually be shifted to the Disney Channel?

I also read that Disney is going to focus more on social and mobile platforms instead of console games.  I know a lot of people who are not going to be happy with that.  What does this mean for Star Wars 1313?  Apparently, not much, and word has it that the project is proceeding as planned.  However, there is still no release date and the platforms haven’t been announced which makes me a little nervous.

Now, finally, let’s talk about Episode VII.  I hate that people are writing it “Episode 7” because that is not Star Wars.  Let’s stick with roman numerals, folks.  First – it’s not going to be directed by George Lucas or even a Lucas-picked director.  This is kind of huge.  George is apparently staying on as a consultant for the new trilogy.  It’s a new look and feel to Star Wars, and it almost kind of makes me think that Star Wars may be going the way of Star Trek.  Secondly – what does this mean for the EU?  I’m sure tons of people are questioning that right now.  Will they include some EU storylines?  Will it be based on the Skywalker family?  How many years after ROTJ will it take place?  All we know is that a LucasFilm source says it’s an “original story.”  So no Thrawn, guys, and no Mara Jade either, sorry.  If they do have some Skywalker elements in it, even if it takes place way after ROTJ, will they throw in something like: “Jedi Master Luke and his wife Mara Jade who founded the New Jedi Order…”?  I LOVE THIS SPECULATION.  I haven’t felt like this since before TPM came out.  And what is awesome about this, is that I feel like there was so much expectation when TPM was being made.  People went in there feeling like they had a vision of how Anakin’s life was going to play out and were severely disappointed when George presented them with something else.  Now, with VII, the slate is blank again and I really hope fans don’t start thinking of how THEY want it to be, and instead keep their minds open.

As an FYI: I am not big into spoilers, so as we head toward 2015 and Episode VII, I ask that for the sake of everyone reading this blog and the author, that you keep spoilers few and rare.  I like going into a movie theater and not knowing what’s going to happen, as I’m sure others do as well.

Overall – I am excited.  I get to start a new countdown to a new trilogy and what could be better?  New possibilities are opened because of this.  It gave me goosebumps all last night when I thought about this news.  I just got a little thrill in my stomach when I added a category on the right hand side of my blog labeled “Episode VII”.

Just remember, no matter what your views on this news is: KEEP CALM AND LOVE STAR WARS.  Oh, and Happy Halloween!

I Used to be an Addict of the EU

I don’t read the EU anymore.

For those of you who don’t know what EU means  – it refers to the Expanded Universe of Star Wars.  It can be books or comic books that chronologically take place after the Return of the Jedi, or in between the saga, or even before Anakin were even thought of by the midi-chlorians.  It can really refer to anything that takes place outside of the Holy Saga of Episodes I-VI.

Wikipedia (how I love thee) officially defines it as:

“The Star Wars Expanded Universe encompasses all of the officially licensed, fictional background of the Star Wars universe, outside of the six feature films produced by George Lucas. The expanded universe includes books, comic books, video games, spin-off films like Star Wars: The Clone Wars, television series, toys, and other media. This material expands and continues the stories told in the films and, excepting where it contradicts the films, is generally considered canonical. However, George Lucas has viewed it as a separate canon from his movie series.”

For the purpose of this blog, I am only going to be referring to books or comic books.

I used to read the Expanded Universe.  My life used to be that of a Star Wars addict and I devoured every Star Wars EU book, and some comic books, I could get my hands on.

I own all of the original Timothy Zahn novels – the “classics” in the Star Wars EU world, also known as the Heir to the Empire trilogy/Thrawn Trilogy.

They were good.  In fact – I really enjoyed them.  I bought every single one of them (ok – 3 books may not seem like a lot but when you are on an 11-year old budget, that’s a lot of money to fork out).  I remember finishing the second book while on vacation in Florida and begging my father to drive me to a book store for the third novel.  It never occurred to me that Floridian bookstores may not carry Star Wars EU books.  We went to a bookstore and they didn’t have the third and final book, “The Last Command”.  Oh it was bad…I was so upset.  I’m pretty sure I cried, threw a temper tantrum, etc.  My dad just laughed at me.  Not being a Star Wars obsessed fan, he didn’t understand the need to have this book in my clammy hands.  However – we must have found another a bookstore because I have vivid memories of reading the third book on the beach and being completely antisocial.

After that, it went downhill.  Because my budget was tight and I would actually have to work (gasp!) to get money, I borrowed every possible Star Wars books I could get my hands on from our local library.  Among those I distinctly remember reading (and I know I read many more):

         I, Jedi by Michael A. Stackpole

          Star Wars: Tales of the Empire, a Collection of short stories

         Young Jedi Knights series

        New Jedi Order series (not all, but a quite a few)

There were more, so many more.  My life was consumed with reading every Star Wars novel that was in my local library.  Yes, they were happy memories, but I also don’t remember doing much else during that time.

And then, somewhere along this journey, I began to get frustrated.  I realized that no matter how much I read, or how fast I read, I would never be able to keep up.  The EU was like a never-ending, exponentially increasing virus.  It kept spreading and spreading, taking over my brain and latching on to my general Star Wars obsession.  During my time reading the books, they began to kill off main characters from the movie.  They needed to up the amp even more, and what better way than to kill off someone everyone holds so dear?

That’s when I got angry.  People were reading these for sentimental reasons, to continue to live in a world that George Lucas had decided was over.  I had enjoyed living in this extended or “expanded” world as well, but I drew a line when characters started to die.

So I edged off a little bit.  I began to go back to my fantasy novels, but still read Star Wars novels (that didn’t kill of anyone big of course) at the same time.  Slowly, as if giving up a blanket I had slept with for a long time, I weaned myself off of reading Star Wars novels all together…

…and I got back a life.

I read all kinds of different novels: historical fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, and I realized that I can still define myself as a Star Wars fan without reading all the novels out there.  I enjoyed what I read then, but I enjoy what I read now even more.

I was doing it for a reputation; to prove to others that I could keep up with the other hard-core Star Wars fans.  I wanted to show that I knew who the latest Star Wars character was, to show I know the names of Han and Leia’s children.  But now it doesn’t matter that much to me.  When people try to talk to me about the EU, I just say I don’t read it – and it’s really that easy.  They back off and don’t care that I don’t or haven’t read it.  I had built it up in my head that I needed to read the books and if I didn’t then other Star Wars fans would see me as a fake.  If they do see me as a fake or not a true enough fan, I’m ok with it because I’m enjoying myself more by reading books I actually want to read.

My Heir to the Empire trilogy is sitting on my shelf right now, surrounded by Star Wars actions figures and other Star Wars paraphernalia.  I like it there.  It shows that I know what the EU is, and I have been there at one point in my life.  I don’t think I’ll pick them up or go down that road.  I can’t imagine everything I would have to catch up on now and how wrapped up I would become all over again.

I guess my overall question is: for the people who read the Expanded Universe novels, do you do it because you want to, or because you feel like you have to in order to uphold a reputation?